The Short And The Tall
“We return now to our top story of the evening, the daring raid on Jeromes in the Grassmarket area of the city. Our reporter, James Doohan, is at the scene. James?”
“Moira, it was here at about two o’clock this afternoon that police arrived following a phone call from the manager of Jeromes, the exclusive jewellers, claiming that the store had been robbed. Although details of what the police found are sketchy, it is believed that the manager received a call at twelve noon today, claiming that his wife and daughter had been taken hostage and that he was to expect a visitor later that day.
“The store closed as usual at lunchtime, but staff were concerned when they returned at two o’clock and were unable to gain entry. When the police arrive a few minutes later, they forced open the door and found the manager locked in the rear storeroom. Other staff members have reported finding the shelves and display cabinets emptied.
“Police have also confirmed that a forty five year old woman and a twenty year old woman are in hospital, receiving treatment for shock and abrasions. The detective in charge, Chief Inspector Ross, made the following statement.”
“We believe that the man who called at Jeromes at one ‘clock is one George Simpson, a known criminal who was last known to be in the Newcastle upon Tyne area. He is thought to be travelling with a young woman, one Lily Harmond, and is considered dangerous. If members of the public should see George Simpson, they are not to approach him but to contact the police immediately….”
Selina reached over and turned off her portable television. “Another crime-filled day,” she thought to herself as she walked out of the sitting room of her flat and made her way into the kitchen.
Heather was just putting on a long leather coat when Selina walked in. “I’m just off to the chippie – can I get you anything?” she said with a smile.
“No, thank you,” Selina replied in her Nigerian accent. “I will get something to eat later.”
“Suit yourself – I’ll be back in about thirty minutes,” Heather called over her shoulder as she walked down the corridor, the heels of her boots clicking on the hard floor as she left the flat. Selina laughed and poured some water into the kettle, putting the flex in and switching it on.
It was as the kettle was coming to the boil that she heard the doorbell ring. Pouring the hot water into a cup, she walked to the door and asked “Who is it?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” a female voice said, “but my car has broken down and my mobile is out of power. Could I possibly use your phone?”
“Of course,” Selina replied as she unlocked the door and opened it. A young blonde haired woman, dressed in a smart trouser suit and heels, walked in.
“Thank you so much,” she said as Selina looked at her. “May I?”
“Of course,” Selina replied as she turned to head back to the kitchen. She had not gone more than a couple of steps, however, when she felt a cool hand clamp over her mouth and her arm was twisted back behind her back.
“You’re not going to give me any trouble, are you?” she heard the blonde haired girl whisper in her ear. Selina silently shook her head in reply.
“Good,” her captor said as she opened the door and was joined by a man in his fifties, short and stocky with greying hair and wearing a dark blue business suit. He closed the door gently behind him and looked at the two ladies.
“Manners, Lily, manners,” he said with a smile that did not reassure Selina at all. “Didn’t I teach you not to be rough with people smaller than yourself?”
“You did, Uncle, you did,” she quietly said as she took her hand away from Selina’s mouth, keeping her grip on her arm at the same time.
“I know you,” she said as she looked into the new arrival’s face, “You were in the news bulletin earlier today. George Simpson?”
“Quite right, my dear, and this is my niece Lily. She wasn’t lying, by the way – we genuinely do have some car trouble. I hope you don’t mind if we stay with you for a little while?”
“If I do mind?”
“Sorry, but you have no choice. Is anyone else home?”
“All right then. Lily, why don’t you and Selina go and make a cup of tea – I’ll wait in the front room.”
“Come on,” Lily said as she pushed Selina in front of her back into the kitchen….
“Fish supper, Heather?”
The owner piled the freshly fried potatoes onto the paper, followed by a large piece of cod in batter before wrapping the package and handing it over to the blonde haired woman. She smiled as she turned round and left the chip shop.
“This is an exceptionally good cup of tea, Selina.”
The young Nigerian was sitting in a chair, watching the two intruders as they drank their tea. She absentmindedly tugged at her skirt.
“Nice skirt – where did you get it?” Lily asked as she looked at the young woman.
“Tammy Girl – they do clothes that I can wear.”
“The jumper as well?”
Selina smiled and nodded. Her jumper was dark grey wool with silver flecks, while her skirt was made from leather panels with a lace pattern embossed on them, that hung on a slight diagonal as the skirt came down to the floor.
“I don’t know – girls and their…” George put his cup down as the telephone started to ring. Lily clamped her hand over Selina’s mouth as they listened to the answering machine.
“Selina, it’s Heather. I’ll be back in a few minutes – can you put the kettle on for me, please?”
As the phone went dead, George looked at the two women opposite him.
“So your flatmate is coming home? We had better make preparations. Lily, would you be a dear and fetch the bag from the car? I’ll get started in here.”
“What do you mean, get started,” Selina said as she watched the blonde haired girl leave the room.
“I am so sorry,” George replied as he pulled a large white cloth from a pocket in his jacket, shook it out and rolled it into a thick band. Selina looked on wide eyed as he stood up and walked towards her, the cloth held taut in both hands.
Heather pulled her collar up against the cold wind coming in off the river – Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but the cold can get to you at times. She briskly walked up to her door, not noticing the car parked outside, and let herself in.
“Selina, did you get the kettle on?” She called out as she walked into the kitchen, only to be stopped in her tracks by the sight of a greying man in his early fifties sat at the kitchen table.
“Good evening, Heather,” he said as he played with a large kitchen knife that was laid beside him on the table top. “We heard you were coming, so I thought I would make your tea for you.”
He handed her a large steaming mug. “Why don’t you sit down at the table and have your tea?”
“Wh…. Who are you?” Heather said as she placed her food on the table. “And where’s Selina?”
“Your friend is with my friend at the moment – we’ll join them shortly. Please, eat – I don’t want to deprive you of that delicious looking food. You can call me George.”
Lily looked at Selina as she sat on the bed, her blue eyes wide with fear.
“Don’t worry – just stay calm and you’ll be fine,” she said as she walked over to the door and left the girl alone in her room.
“So you did that robbery in town today?”
“With a little help from some friends – ah., Lily, say hello to Heather.”
Lily looked at the blonde haired woman sat at the kitchen table. She had removed her leather jacket, and was wearing a long dress with a cream and brown dogtooth print on it. A wide tan leather belt was around her waist, and she was wearing knee length tan leather boots that were buckled around the top of her calf.
“Hello, Heather – thanks for allowing us to stop here for a while.”
“Oh, you’ll see her soon enough. We’ve had a busy day, and we just need to rest a while.”
Heather looked at the two intruders, deciding that perhaps if she took an interest in what they were saying they would leave her alone.
“I mean to ask Lily,” George said, “Just how did it go at the house?”
“Piece of cake. The wife was in her bedroom when I got in through the kitchen door, and her daughter was sat in the front room in her PJ’s. She had no idea I was there until I pulled the scarf into her mouth, and by the time her mother came in I had her wrists tied together behind her back.”
“Smooth work – so they gave you no trouble?”
“None at all – I told her that if she wanted her daughter to remain unharmed, she should do exactly what I say. She gave up the ghost there and then, so I told her to pull the curtains and then tied them both up on the floor. After I tied their ankles and gagged them both with scarf and tape, they were like docile little lambs.”
“I thought so – the bloke was crying when I got to the shop. Ah – but I’m forgetting we are guests here. Lily, keep Heather company while I make a call please.”
George stood up and walked into the hallway, talking into a mobile phone, while Lily looked at the young lady.
“What are you looking at?” Heather said with a hint of anger in her voice.
“Just planning something,” Lily said as George walked in.
“All right, I’ve made some arrangements – we have about an hour. Heather, have you finished eating?”
“Yes – why?”
“Please, stand up and put your hands behind your back – we need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm before we go.”
Heather stood up and placed her hands behind her back, with her wrists crossed. Lily passed George a length of white cord, which he quickly doubled over and passed around the young girl’s wrists. Heather winced as the cord was wrapped tightly around her wrists and then tied between them.
“Very good – now, sit back down please,” George said as Lily produced more lengths of cord from a bag in the table. Doubling one up, she quickly and neatly pulled Heather’s ankles together and secured them tightly, repeating the process around her legs below her knees and around her thighs over her skirt. At the same time, George was securing her arms to her side with a length of cord below her breasts, passing the rope between her chest and her arms to further tighten the binding.
“I don’t suppose you are going to leave me in the kitchen?” Heather said with her eyes fixed on a knife block by the kitchen sink.
George simple replied “No” as he helped Heather to her feet. Lily took one arm as George took the other, and they half marched, half carried Heather out of the kitchen and into her own bedroom. Once inside, they stood her next to the side of her double bed.
“Lily, be a dear and bring Selina in, will you?” George asked as he unwound another white cloth and folded it into a band.
“Is that what I think it is?” Heather asked as George pulled the cloth tightly between his hands.
“It is – now open wide.”
Heather felt the cotton fill her mouth as George pulled the ends behind her head, and tied them together at the base of her neck with a triple knot. The band was wide enough to keep her mouth slightly open as she tried to close her lips around it, but then the cry of “sln!” escaped her as she saw Lily frog march her friend into the room.
Selina had also had her wrists bound behind her back, and her arms roped to her side. Ropes had also been tied around her ankles, calves and thighs, with her skirt wrapped around so that she looked as if she was a mermaid as she hopped across the floor. The thick white cloth in her mouth was preventing her talking, but heather could see the tear tracks down her brown cheeks. With help from Lily, she was positioned so that the two girls were placed back to back.
“Here,” George said as he passed Lily a long length of rope, “You secure them together by the waist, and I’ll take care of their waists.”
“This could be interesting,” Lily thought as she passed the doubled over rope around Heather under her breasts, then around Selina’s chest. Two more passes were made before she passed the rope between their bodies and pulled tightly before knotting the ends together. As she looked on, George also secured their legs together around their calves and thighs.
“Well, not the neatest job, but it will do. Thank you for your hospitality ladies, but we’ll be on our way now.”
Lily gently pushed the two girls over so that they were lying on the bed, and then pulled their legs around so that they lay along the length of the mattress. The two captives glared at them as they turned the light off and left them alone with their thoughts.
A silver grey Daimler was waiting outside as George and Heather left the house in the darkness of the night. A suited man was standing by the rear door, holding it open.
“Who on earth did you call?” Lily asked as she looked at George.
“Get in, Lily – we need to have a chat.”
Heather was lying on her side, twisting around and trying to get comfortable. The only sound was that of the tan leather of her boots rubbing against the black leather of her friend’s skirt, and the occasional muffled groan from behind her.
She wanted to tell Selina to move, but the thick cloth gags made it impossible. That, and the fact Selina’s head was resting between her shoulder blades and the rope around her lower chest was around her friend’s upper chest. She’d never appreciated the foot difference in their height until now. More to the point, her short black hair was giving her a terrible itch between her shoulder blades.
For her part, Selina was still trying to keep calm. She managed to find one of Heather’s hands and gave it a reassuring squeeze to let her know she was all right. In her own mind, her biggest fear was that Heather would roll over and flatten her into the mattress, but the squeeze she got back to her hand told her that was unlikely to happen.
“So, this is Lily?”
Lily looked at the elegantly dressed woman sat opposite her and her uncle. In her grey Armani skirt and jacket, with Jimmy Choo shoes and white silk blouse, she looked every inch the business lady, but there was something in her manner that suggested her trade was somewhat more unique.
“This is Lily,” George said. “I trust you have heard about the events of today?”
“Oh yes – you did a wonderful job at the home of the manager, efficient and neat. Those are the qualities we are looking for.”
“George – I don’t understand, what’s going on?”
George turned and looked at her niece.
“Lily, I’ve taught you everything I can, and it’s time for you to move on. This is Penelope, and she has a job offer for you.”
“An offer?” Lily turned and looked at the woman. “What sort of work?”
“Well, it would actually be my employer you worked for, but I would be your supervisor. You have talent, Lillian, and we wish to develop that talent.”
“We – and I hate Lillian. I prefer Lily.”
“As you wish, but you should accept that if you work for us, Madame will call you Lillian, and she does not appreciate her workers talking back to her.”
“Madame…. Uncle, does she mean….”
“She does, Lily – congratulations.”
“I… I don’t know what to say. OF course I accept, but what will you do?”
“Oh, I’ll manage. Penelope, could you drop me off at the nearest train station – I’ll make my own way from there.”
Penelope tapped on the window. “Stop at the next station, Steve. Lily, your belongings have already been taken to one of our safe houses, and we’ll head there after we drop George off. George, Madame thanks you for this, and asks me to tell you that if you need help at any time, she will be waiting.”
“My pleasure, Penelope,” George replied as the car came to a stop. “Goodbye, Lily – and good luck.”
Lily smiled as George closed the door behind him and watched it disappear into the distance. Walking into the station, he went to the ticket counter.
“Single to London, please.”